Travel Wish List: A Private Jet
It’s no secret that commercial air travel leaves a lot to be desired. Between too-small seats, crowding in the overhead, fees galore and taking your shoes off at security, the truth is that for people traveling in coach, flights are simply something that need to be endured to get from Point A to Point B.
So when I got a press release about Avantair, a fractional jet operator, I decided to conduct a Q&A with Steven Santo, the company’s CEO to find out more. Yes, this is out of most people’s reach, but it’s fun to dream, isn’t it?
Q. What exactly does Avantair do and who is your target customer?
A. Avantair is the only publicly traded stand-alone private aircraft operator and the sole North American provider of fractional ownership opportunities. Avantair offers the luxury of private travel without the cost of owning an aircraft. The company currently manages a fleet of 55 aircraft, with another 52 Piaggio Avanti aircraft on order through 2013, and has a service area that includes the continental United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Mexico. Our target customer ranges from the business traveler to retired vacationers.
Q. Realistically, who can afford to travel on a private jet? Do you have to be very wealthy?
A. Owning a personal aircraft can have significant fees tied to it; however, Avantair offers an alternative to whole aircraft ownership. By becoming a fractional owner the cost is significantly lower because you’re only paying for flight hours based on your membership program. For instance, if a company were to fly six professionals from Boston to New York on a commercial flight in business class, the cost would be circa $2,433. The same flight on an Avantair aircraft would be $2,791; a marginal difference for the comfort, flexibility and stress free experience without sacrificing luxury. The costs are able to stay at competitive levels because of our fuel efficiency (40 percent lower than most aircraft) which still enables us to be the world’s fastest turboprop with the space and luxury of a mid-size jet, and the speed of a light jet.
Q. What are the different price points? How does pricing work?
A. Avantair offers a variety of memberships to fit our owners’ lifestyles. Our program’s popularity has allowed Avantair to become the leader in the light jet category with a 28% market share. Our Edge Card program became extremely popular over the past two years. And with the introduction of the Axis Club Membership, that program has taken off as well.
Fractional Ownership – Avantair fractional ownership provides all the advantages of owning your own aircraft without the hassle of the costs or maintenance issues that go along with outright aircraft ownership. The owner only pays for their actual hours in the plane; there are no charges for plane repositioning fees as there would be when chartering an aircraft. Fractional ownership is available from 50 flight hours to over 800 flight hours per year.
Edge Card – Avantair’s Edge Card is available for either 15 or 25 hours and is for the less frequent flyer who would like to fly privately. The Edge Card users receive all of the advantages of private travel without the acquisition costs of fractional ownership with a 1 year term.
AXIS Club Membership – This program offers a unique perspective for travelers interested in flying privately with lower upfront costs. The AXIS Club Membership bridges the gap between the hourly costs associated with time cards and the initial financial commitment of a fractional share. AXIS Club Membership provides operational and financial flexibility for travelers’ needs. This exclusive membership is ideal for travelers who would like to reduce their initial financial outlay, prefer a shorter term commitment (3 years) and fly between 50 to 400 hours per year.
Q. What are the three best things about flying private?
A. Flying privately allows you to schedule your own flight times without the hassle of layovers, connecting flights, and overbooked airlines.
When flying privately, you no longer have to wait in long security lines, you can avoid checking baggage (which has the risk of lost luggage), and the overall stress of flying commercial.
Moreover, at Avantair, we pride ourselves on our emphasis of going “green.” Avantair’s Piaggio Avanti aircraft fly at a brisk 450 mph while burning 40 percent less fuel than competitors; this in turn leads to an average of 35 percent less carbon emissions
Q. Where can Avantair take you that a commercial airline can’t?
A. Because we have access to over 5,000 airports where larger aircraft simply can’t land, we have the opportunity to reach exotic locations such as Bermuda Dunes, CA, Ocean Reef, FL, and Mackinac Island, MI.
For the Golfer: Bermuda Dunes, CA- This southern California community located near Joshua Tree National Park offers one of California’s most luxurious golf experiences at Bermuda Dunes Country Club and has been home to Hollywood legend Clark Gable and sports icon Arnold Palmer.
For the Ocean Lover: Ocean Reef, FL- Secluded at the north end of Key Largo and surrounded by water on three sides, this private community is known as one of the country’s most exclusive spots. Ocean Reef features luxurious accommodations, golf courses, and a variety of marine activities.
For the Family: Mackinac Island, MI- Imagine a remote picturesque island featuring horse-drawn carriages, bicycles, no automobiles, and a hotel requiring formal dinner attire – welcome to Mackinac.
My name: Genevieve Shaw Brown. I also answer to Genny and Gen.
How I earn my keep: I work at Travelocity.
Greatest travel lesson learned: I travel for my job, but I've learned work is work, vacation is vacation, and it's best not to try and do both on one trip.
Fondest travel memory: There are so many... but a recent experience was being totally jet-lagged and waking up pre-dawn in Koh Samui, Thailand, and watching the sun rise with my husband on the beach. We talked about what all our friends and family were doing at that very same moment as the sun set back home in New York.
First thing I do in a new place: Peruse the local restaurants and map out my dining strategy for the duration of my trip. Dining strategy = eating at as many restaurants as humanly possible.
First thing I do when I get home: Put a push pin on the destination I just returned from on the map of the world that hangs on the wall above my couch.
Travel ambition: To cover that map completely in push pins.
My most beloved place in the whole world: Cockle Cove Beach in Chatham, Massachusetts.